After a mediocre game one performance, DeJuan Blair looked to bounce back with a strong showing in game two. And he did, at least on the defensive end. Blair finished game two with four points and two rebounds in eight minutes and 40 seconds of play. But it was the three steals by Blair that left his mark on this game.
With 1:23 left in the first, Blair came in to replace Tim Duncan. Now with Blair and Matt Bonner being the only bigs on the floor for San Antonio, the duty of guarding Amare Stoudemire was placed squarely on Blair’s shoulders. In the limited time he played, Blair did a good job of keeping Stoudemire outside the paint and forcing him to defer to other players. Blair scored his first two points on a contested lay-up with 30 seconds left in the first, giving the Spurs a 28-20 lead.
A recurring theme in these playoffs for Gregg Popovich is to start Blair in the second quarter, and again Wednesday night Pop did. Stoudemire started the second as well, and the Suns went to him in their first possession. But Blair was able to get low on Stoudemire who was unable to post up Blair and back him down, so he had to pass the ball. Blair then scored on the next Spurs possession after grabbing the offensive rebound of a Tony Parker miss and laying it in.
On the next Phoenix possession, Jared Dudley was fouled on a lay-up and got the “and one”. Dudley missed the free throw, but Blair was unable to secure the rebound and the Suns got another possession. Blair then fouled Dudley for a second straight “And 1”.
Small ball killed the Spurs at the start of the second. The bigger Suns line up was able to collect seven offensive rebounds in the first two and a half minutes of the second quarter. It seems that the suns small ball is bigger the the Spurs small ball. Blair was replaced by George Hill with 9:15 left in the half.
Blair came in for Duncan again with 2:03 remaining in the third. Blair would then start the fourth and use his defense to help push the Spurs on one last run. Blair made a great steal on a Channing Frye pass and was able to kick it out to Parker who then got it to Hill for a transition three that gave the Spurs an 80-78 lead with 11:18 left in the game. Two Suns possessions later, he forced Stoudemire into a turnover, but the Spurs were unable to capitalize off the steal. Duncan replaced Blair with 9:31 left to play.
Blair hasn’t performed well on the offensive end during the playoffs, but with Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, as well as Hill scoring plenty, Blair doesn’t need to score. If he can continue to play good defense and force turnovers, hopefully he can help will the Spurs out of their two game hole.